“I know you hate it, Daniel. I know that fear is strangling you and all I can promise you is more uncertainty,” Em said. “Whatever happens, just breathe and keep breathing. As long as you’re breathing you’re alive. As long as you’re alive there’s nothing to worry about.”

– Rosa and the Veil of Gold, Kim Wilkins

Autumn’s Castle by Kim Wilkins is one of my favourite books of all times – its a rich, romantic fairytale, that is also very dark and tragic. This book is a similar sort of fairytale – the dark sort, but this book is much more sinister than I remember Autumn’s Castle being. I admit that although I went into this book knowing it would be grim, I had not expected it to be so creepy, for the unsettled feeling it inspires, for how certain parts are difficult to read for they are so unflinchingly cruel, and often violent. (Never gratuitous though) Its easy to get caught up in this tale, but its difficult. It’s a sinister, unhappy book. Yet, its also interesting and thoroughly captivating. I liked the way the book was laid out – switching from narrator to characters, teasing, leading your thoughts in one direction, then another and another. I loved that it was set in Russia, and I loved the other world the author created – such a beautiful but harsh place. The mythology was fascinating. I found the characters difficult but realistic. I liked that the author moulded these kind of characters – a selfish, vain woman, a cold and practical woman, a frightened, anxious man. They are not the sort you usually see. Woman do not always have to be nice, after all, neither do men have to be strong, and I admire authors who write away from these stereotypes. They are written in a layered enough way you can still sympathize for them and enjoy reading about them despite their flaws and with the circumstance in the book you can hardly blame any of the characters for their thoughts or actions. The author doesn’t flinch away from the horrors of landing up in fairytale world, and its deeply unsettling watching that world wear down at Em and Daniel, yet its also more believable – there are no happy coincidences in this book, no kind strangers.

I devoured this book in days – stayed up late, even though its a very unsettling book for bed time reading. I liked it, however it did falter towards the end, and the ending was just a little too open, too mysterious. I admit I was also slightly shocked at the choice that one of the characters made, and I wasn’t sure how they could justify it. I think the ending killed my enthusiasm for the book so ultimately although I liked this book, I did not love it like the book I’d previously read from this author.